050. Conceptions of the Self East and West

C. Cottine (Religion)
Full Course -- 4 Credits
Fall Semester FYSP 050-01  MWF 11:00-11:50

Different cultures articulate different visions of human life. But what are we to make of this diversity as contemporary residents of an increasingly heterogeneous nation? Do we have any rational basis for assessing this diversity or evaluating these alternative possibilities for life presented by different religious and philosophical traditions? This seminar examines important, indeed classic, statements on the nature of human existence from the ancient and modern West, and from East Asia. We will endeavor, moreover, to sensitively compare these diverse conceptions of human life without capitulating to nihilism, relativism, or cultural chauvinism. In this course, we will explore influential representatives of several traditions, including Confucianism, Daoism, Christianity, and contemporary democratic political theory. Recurring issues include the nature and relation of reason and emotion; the constitution and source of saving dispositions; understandings of the relation of our more animal and more human sides; problems in life that deform the self; the need, if any, for transcendent influences to actualize the self; the form of and rationale for various practices of self-cultivation; and the relation of individual and communal flourishing.